Keeping track of props throughout a scene is a hallmark of good writing.  If a character picks up a book, at some point in the scene she also puts it down. If she lights a cigarette, it doesn’t mysteriously vanish from her hand; she holds it until she either stubs it out or walks out of the frame. Not only does knowing where your objects are prevent consistency errors, but it also makes your writing satisfyingly concrete–it’s a simple touch that makes your world more real and keeps readers immersed. Below, I’ve made up a short checklist of questions to help you track the movement of objects as you write.

Without Further Ado

  • Does my character pick anything up?
    • Do they put it back down?
    • Do they pick up anything else before putting it back down?
      • More than one thing?
      • Does the character have enough hands to feasibly hold these things?
  • Does anyone give my character anything to hold?
    • If my character is not meant to keep it, do they give it back?
    • If my character is meant to keep it, where do they put it?
  • Is my character eating or drinking anything?
    • Is there anything that isn’t eaten (bones, seeds, rinds, pits, packaging) that needs to be dealt with?
    • What about dishes and cutlery?
      • Where do these things go?
    • If my character is holding something consumable, does it remain in their hand until it is either finished or put back down?
  • Does my character use any weapons or tools?
    • If the weapon or tool leaves their hand, do they retrieve it?
    • When they are done with the weapon or tool, where do they put it?
      • Do they put away the weapon or tool before they need their hands for another task?
  • Does my character enter the scene with any props (backpacks, handbags, mysterious packages)?
    • Do they exit the scene with these props?
      • If not, do they find another reasonable place to leave these props?
  • Are there any props present in the scene that my character would be expected to take with them when it ends?
    • Do they have these props in the next scene?
      • If they don’t have these props, is there somewhere that they reasonably could have stashed them between scenes?
  • Did my character need a vehicle to get to this location?
    • Where is that vehicle now?
    • Do they exit the location by the same means?
      • If not, is the vehicle left behind?
      • Do they come back to move their vehicle?
      • Does their vehicle appear at another location without being moved?
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